The head of the Los Angeles ABC station that held a televised town hall meeting in Anaheim Monday is accusing a local labor leader of using union resources to turn the forum — which was supposed to address variety of issues — into another public show of anger against the city’s granting of a $158-million tax subsidy to local hotel developers.

In the days leading up to the event, the Orange County Employees Association paid for robocalls and distributed fliers – with the TV station’s logo – that billed the event as a town hall on the subsidy issue, which has dominated Anaheim’s political scene in recent weeks.

Arnold Kleiner, president and general manager at KABC-TV, is not happy with OCEA’s portrayal of the event. “For the first time in seven years the purpose of our meeting has been misrepresented,” Kleiner said at the beginning of the forum.

Kleiner places the blame squarely on OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino, who did not attend the meeting, which drew more than 300 people.

“I wish he would have showed up [to the forum]. But I guess it’s not important enough to him,” Kleiner said.

Kleiner said he first brought up the issue with Berardino several days before the forum and that Berardino had indicated he would stop the misleading advertising and send out a corrected communication. But Berardino never did, Kleiner said.

Berardino argues that Kleiner should be grateful that the union mobilized a large crowd to be at the event.

“I’m appreciative that he came out and did the show, and I hope he’s appreciative of our hard work to turn out a good crowd for him,” Berardino said. “I’m sure deep down in his heart he appreciates it.”

Berardino hinted at other motivations, including the possibility that KABC-TV, which is owned by Disney, might not want to have a serious discussion about the hotel subsidy.

“Disney’s marketing is that it’s the happiest place on earth. They’d like to keep it that way,” he said.

As to whether he told Kleiner that the union would back off on its marketing tactics, Berardino said that was a “misunderstanding.”


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